African American Perception


African American Perception Essay, Research Paper


European Americans believe that they are the superior race to every other race. They persist in attempts to control and conquer all that exist on this earth. Their influence on the African American psyche is of interest to the current investigation. This ideology could influence four personality dimensions, for example: inferiority, dependence, helplessness, and self-hate. Experimental research is utilized in this project to test a sample of the African American population from the inner city on perception. The sample will be a group of two hundred participants both female and male whom are between the ages of eighteen to thirty. Field research and questionnaires will be utilized. It is predicted that European Americans negative perception of African Americans, related to African Americans perception of themselves.

The Impact of European Americans perception and influence

On the African American psyche in American Society

Foremost, perception is the process by which sensory stimulation is organized into usable experience, which are commonly called percepts. Percepts are acquired by past experiences, which become organized and assist in and individual s present perception. Therefore, it would not be difficult for a person to perceive themselves and other things according to prior knowledge, history, and experiences. According to the classical theory of perception advanced by the German physiologist and physicist Herman Ludwig Ferdinand von Helmholtz, depth perception is a result of an individual s ability continually to synthesize past experience and current sensory cues (Encarta, 96). In addition, perception allows an individual to recall past experiences in the present with the assistance of some type of sensory stimuli that connects the past with the present.

Significantly, self-concept and self-esteem play major roles in the personality dimensions of the African American. Self-concept and self-esteem can be interchangable. Foremost, self-concept means the totality of the individual s thought and feelings having reference to self as an object. (Rosenberg 1979). It is adopting the attitudes of others toward the self. In turn, the perceptions of society as a whole towards a group of people can manifests as attitudes of others toward the self, which can be perceived as the attitudes of others are turn inwardly to reflects ones self (Rosenberg, 1979).

Both persuasive theories of reflected appraisal and social comparison could be utilized in characterizing the personality dimensions of the African American. According to Sullivan, reflected appraisal specifies that people are deeply influenced by the attitudes of others toward the self, and that, in the course of time, they come to view themselves as they are viewed by others (Rosenberg, 1979). Therefore, it could be evident that African Americans view themselves in the small manner as European Americans. The perception of European Americans affects the African American viewpoint.

Consecutively, the social comparison theory could be adopted in assisting in the explanation of the personality dimensions of the African American. As described by Pettigrew, the basic tenet of social evaluation theory is that human beings learn about themselves by comparing themselves to others (Rosenberg, 1979). Whether the comparison is amongst individuals, groups, or social categories, people learn to judge and evaluate themselves according to the standards of others. For example, studies show that minority group members have low self-esteem because they compare unfavorably with the majority group. The unfavorable comparisons could be low economic status and poor family structure amongst other variables due to discrimination and prejudices. One might conclude that an African American may have low self-esteem because they are unable to achieve success when in comparison with their European American counterparts (Rosenberg, 1979).

The four personality dimensions that are significant in characterizing the influence and the European American perception that has been psychologically imbedded in the African American mind are inferiority, helplessness, dependence, and self-hate. The perception of superiority existed long before the Europeans colonizers brought enslaved Africans to North America. They used religion as well as several other sources as a justification for the atrocities that they committed against enslaved Africans. For example, the story of Noah and the curse of his son Ham helped to ease the conscious of the European colonizers as well as degrade and create an inferiority complex for the enslaved Africans. The Africans were led to believe that they were the descendants of Canaan, who was condemned to be, a servant of servants unto his brethren, because his father Ham looked upon his own father s nakedness. The purpose of this Bible excerpt was to make the enslaved Africans think that their skin was a curse of shame, and their rightful place was to be forever indebted to the European race.

In recent years, a study has been done that confirms the superiority-inferiority complex. In 1970, Laurence created an evaluation for white and black students. The study consisted of fifth, sixth and eighth grade students in the Sacramento area. The children were asked to compare behavior, intelligence, and honesty of both blacks and whites. The results concluded that no white student thought that blacks were better at any of these qualities, and some of the blacks agreed with this notion.

European Americans perception of African Americans assisted in creating the component of helplessness of the Black race. During the early 16th century when the institution of slavery of Africans was established, European colonizers shipped enslaved Africans to America without any sense of identity. America was one of the first nations to declare that the rights of the individual were paramont these concepts contrasted radically with the idea that a man could be taken from his home away from his family, forced to work against his will and forced to breed more people to be borne into the same life (Kolchin, 96). Although this new nation claimed to be based on equality of men, European settlers treated enslaved Africans as their own property. Enslaved Africans were considered to be three fifths human according to the Constitution. They did not have the choice to return back to their homeland. Helplessness confined their existence because another race of people was retaining them from reaching even their minimal potential for human rights.

Progressing towards present time, African Americans dependence on European Americans improved slightly in the early twenty century. Yes, the physical institution of slavery was eradicated, but many laws were implemented that continued to repress the equality of human rights for African Americans. Segregation was an attempt by white Southerners to separate the races in every sphere of life and to achieve supremacy over blacks (Norrel, 1997). Segregation was a series of laws and customs that was used to control Black people after slavery was abolished. Since there were laws that prevented many African Americans from voting, it was extremely difficult for them to participant and become active in the economic and political arena. They were forced to depend on the European politicians to make decisions that affected their lives and their communities.

Lastly, the component of self-hate unravels for the African American psyche. Again, the mind is the temple for thought, and perception develops from how the mind organizes past and present experiences. Collectively, European scientists presented so called evidence that supported the theory that people of African descent were a creation that were less than human. Such scientists as Charles Darwin and Charles Lyell believed that the Black race was a creature between a monkey and that of Anglo-Saxon descent (Manning, 97). Of course, these types of publications as that of Charles Darwin and Charles Lyell would exhibit some kind of hostility and even hatred to a people who were never given a chance to defend or even acquire the education for disputing these theories. In turn, many developed a complex toward themselves and those that were similar to them.

Presently, many African Americans demonstrate through actions that Europeans have influenced their own perception. The components of inferiority, helplessness, dependence, and self-hate create the mindset of many African Americans today. These components contribute in assisting people to understand a plausible reason for the why in today s society most African American people fall to the bottom of the economic ladder. It can also bring light to why there is an alarming rate of Black on Black crime, the reason for excessive drug abuse in the inner city African American community, and the minimal support of Black-owned businesses. Hopefully, this paper will provide a new awareness to possibly uninformed readers.


This project will consists of testing a random sample of the African American population from the inner city of Atlanta, Ga. on perception. The study could take place in the University Community Center in the West End area. Fliers will be sent to low- income housing communities as well as predominately African American communities to inquire of possible participants. The participants will be compensated for their participation. Once the interested participants have come forward, the research will begin. One hundred of the participants will be of the female sex between the ages of eighteen and thirty, while the other hundred will be of the male sex also between the ages of eighteen and thirty. The participants will be given a consent form to sign allowing their responses to be utilized in the future.

There are necessary materials that are needed to conduct this study. First, the participants, laboratory setting, and eight conductors are definite. Paper is needed to create the fliers, questionnaires, and consent forms. The fliers will clarify the purpose of the experiment. A tape recorder either audio or visual will be needed to record the information for one portion of the experiment. In addition, pencils, pens, and a typewriter are essential is developing, creating, and performing necessary duties for this research. Within the laboratory setting, there should be five long desks that accommodate ten people each, and snacks for the waiting time that the participants may experience.

Lastly, the procedure that should be taken is as follows. First, upon the arrival of the first fifty participants, consent forms will be issued and signed. Next, the participants will be asked to introduce him or her selves, and give a brief description about him or her selves. Then, the participants will be given a series of three questionnaires and a perception association evaluation. They will not be informed of the name and questionnaires that they will be issued.

The first questionnaire that will be issued is the Guttman Self-Esteem Scale done by Rosenberg. The participants will be given seven minutes to finish. Upon completion, the participants will be given the Stability of Self Scale. They will be given five minutes to complete this scale. Thirdly, the participants will be given the Racial Group Disidentification in which they are given six minutes to complete.

Lastly, the perception of association evaluation will consists of pictures and a one to three word association to that picture. Six pictures will be flashed in time intervals of ten seconds, and the participants should give the first word or words that come to their head. The pictures will be of an African American female and male in business and casual attire, and a Caucasian female and male in causal attire. The other participants will be accommodated with snacks until the time approaches for them to be evaluated. Of course, they will be thanked for their participation and dismissed after all fifty participants have performed their evaluation.

Plans for Analyses

The plan for analyses for the research conducted will demonstrate the positive correlation of the African American perception and influence. The correlation will be between the perception of the European Americans (popular culture) and how that perception influence such variables as low self-esteem in the personality dimensions of the African American. The Guttman scale should demonstrate that low economic African Americans have low self-esteem from the responses on the questionnaire. The racial group disidentification should illustrate a disliking for one s self, and the picture association will be an indicator of how an African American and European American is viewed in the eyes of an African American individual.


Hopefully, this project has shown some potential to the study of the identical perceptions of the European and African American in society. The negative perception of the European American on the African American appears to be the same viewpoint. This project should have exposed the personality dimensions: inferiority, dependence, helplessness, and self-hate of the African American. These personality dimensions should demonstrate a strong correlation between the perception and how that perception of the European American influences the African American.


Chronology on the History of Slavery 1619 to 1789. (1999). New York. Retrieved April 9, 2000 from the World Wide Web:

Manning, K. R. (1997). Race, Science, and Identity. In Lawhorn, P., Fine, L., Hooper, N. (Eds.), Ideas in African American Thought: An Anthology for Writers. (pp. 37-51).

Retrieved from Civil Rights Movement in the U.S. (Microsoft Encarta 97 Encyclopedia), CD-ROM (1996), (No. 000-31705).

Retrieved from Perception (Microsoft Encarta 97 Encyclopedia), CD-ROM (1996), (No. 000-31705).

Retrieved from Slavery in the U.S. (Microsoft Encarta 97 Encyclopedia), CD-ROM (1996), (No. 000-31705).

Rosenberg, M., 1979. Conceiving the Self. Malabar: Krieger Publishing Company

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